Researchers detect alarming invasion of Red Sea corals to Mediterranean

JERUSALEM, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Israeli marine researchers have discovered in the east Mediterranean a type of coral commonly found in the Red Sea, indicating the migration of an alien species, the University of Haifa (UH) said in a statement on Monday.

This type of soft coral, known as Dendronephthya, was found at a depth of 42 meters near the village of Sdot Yam back in May, according to a study led by the university and recently published in the journal Biology.

The coral is normally found in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region and is common in the Red Sea.

Although the exact ways of its transport cannot be determined, this coral likely arrived from the Red Sea, via the Suez Canal, as part of the greater and well-documented Lessepsian Migration, according to the study.

Cooler waters of the Mediteranean used to be a barrier to the arrival tropical corals, but such natural barriers are disappearing due to the climate change, said the UH.

An increase in the minimum winter temperatures in coastal waters as well as other temperature shifts in the east Mediterranean region since the 1990s may provide favorable conditions for the invasion of warm-water species, researchers said in the study.

The researchers warned that due to the rapid attachment and growth capabilities of this coral type, it is expected to spread rapidly and become increasingly common across the Mediterranean Sea.

They noted that when species from one region bio-invade and establish themselves in another, it can severely harm the local ecosystem.

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